Heard impressed with start to Lady Topper season

Kyle Williams

Saturday night at Diddle Arena, WKU fans got the chance to get their first look at the new-look Lady Topper basketball team.

The Lady Toppers took the court with the men’s basketball team for Hilltopper Hysteria, WKU’s annual celebration to kick off the basketball season.

The Lady Toppers — who finished last season with a record of 22-11, a 13-win improvement from the season before — were the first to hit the floor following the introductions for an intra-squad scrimmage in front of an estimated 4,200 fans.

Freshman center Ruta Savickaite was aggressive early and gave the White team a sizeable advantage through the first five minutes of play. The 6-foot-4-inch Lithuania native recorded the first seven points for the white team and finished with a total of eight.

Familiar faces also impressed for the Lady Toppers in their 20-minute scrimmage in the form of junior forward Chastity Gooch and junior guard Alexis Govan.

Gooch, who was third among sophomores last season in rebounding with over 11 boards per game, drained both of her attempts from beyond the arc. The 6-foot junior — who recorded 33 double-doubles last season — normally isn’t a threat from deep, but coach Michelle Clark-Heard said Gooch has always been a capable shooter and that the presence of newcomer Savickaite will give her some freedom offensively.

“She’s always been able to shoot it,” Heard said. “But her bread and butter is in the post…it’s good she can have the opportunity to step out and make the 3, but we also want to make sure that where she was able to get 16-and-11 last year was in the post.

“Ruta has been coming along each and every day…We’re excited about that. It gives Chastity an opportunity to kind of play back at her true position at the four.”

Govan got going on the offensive side of the floor early on, but her defensive prowess highlighted her play, picking up several deflections with her active hands. The 5-foot-10-inch San Antonio native, who averaged 20.3 points per contest last season, was also a vocal leader for the Lady Toppers during the scrimmage.

Heard, who was named Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year last season, said she was excited to have the opportunity to show off her new players and full roster to the Lady Topper fans.

“It’s exciting for the group,” Heard said. “What we’re trying to do is get the opportunity for people to get a chance to see our new players and now we have a full roster. I’m just excited.”

The WKU women’s basketball team will face Kentucky Wesleyan in an exhibition matchup on Oct. 29 in Diddle Arena.

Heard said the Lady Toppers need to focus on avoiding miscues and improving as a whole before their first test of the season.

“We have to take care of the ball a little bit more,” Heard said. “…But it’s been fun. We’ve been getting better and I’m looking forward to continuing to get better for our exhibition game that is coming up.”